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How to be present while exercising

I’ve always been an advocate for doing multiple things at once: whether working out while listening to podcasts or talking on the phone while cooking a delicious dinner – metaphorically killing two birds with one stone has long been the ultimate goal. But recent research has begun to make a compelling argument that these “productivity” habits could be ruining my overall happiness and indeed causing a destruction of said productivity. Say what?

On my way to the market on a beautiful Saturday morning, I was enjoying my walk while listening to a podcast: this one was on happiness. It began with Pharrell's infamous song, ‘Happy’, and featured a number of talented speakers in bite-sized interview. Before I knew it, my mind had quickly become distracted by all the textures, colours, smells and vibrancy – I picked up a broccoli and I was transfixed.

“… Mind-wandering can lead to anxiety and stress …”

I was starkly brought back to reality. What had I just missed in the podcast? Which broccoli do I want? Do I even want broccoli?

I tried to listen to the podcast while picking the best vegetables, but it all began to be too much: my mind-wandering had turned an enjoyable experience into a stressful one. I paused the podcast and took my headphones off. I was going to be present and enjoy the market in all its delight.

Have you experienced this before? Maybe you’ve been eating while scrolling through your phone. Are you able to enjoy the food that you’re eating? Or are you more interested in digesting the information that you’re consuming? What happens when you  slow down, and embrace both of the incredible experiences on their own?

We get it. We’ve become a much stronger and efficient species. Having your dream job is now no longer enough – you’ve also got to have a perfect diet, be a great runner, dancer, weight trainer, all of the above and more!

But let’s be honest: you don’t need to do all that. In fact, you don’t need to do anything.

Be yourself, and be present. Slow down and reflect on the activities that you do day-to-day – do you really enjoy them? If you do, fantastic! Continue to embrace them and do it all! If you don’t, that’s okay, too. Figure out if you really need to do these things and ask yourself, will being present help you enjoy it more?

How to be present

It’s all well and good to talk about being present and mindful, but what exactly does this entail?

“A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

In other words, mindfulness and being present is all about slowing down and thinking carefully about what you are actually doing, and trying to listen to that inner voice inside – taking control of your thoughts and your mind.  

With only a few spare minutes you can strengthen and practise mindfulness daily. Let’s do this together, right now:

  1. Close your eyes and to focus on your breathing.
  2. Breathe in and out, counting each breath and relaxing your body.
  3. Clear your mind and embrace this present state.
  4. When you find your mind wandering, go back to counting. Keep counting to ten, and start again until your mind is clear.
  5. Once you feel satisfied, open your eyes and thank your body, mind and soul for your first simple experience of mindfulness.

The next step we suggest is trying meditation.

For all of you Yogis out there, namaste.

Practising yoga focuses on your breath while stretching your muscles. Not a fan of the downward dog? Then you’ll love meditation apps such as Headspace, or our favourite, Smiling Mind (free on the app/android store). Smiling Mind guides you through various meditations and develops your practice through a number of short five-minute programs. You can even practise mindfulness while eating, taking in all the textures, smells and flavours when the food is in your mouth. This is a form of meditation, considering where the food came from, who nourished it and the adventure this food took to get into your hands. Reflecting on these simple experiences helps steady your mind, while also practising gratitude.

The next time you do exercise, don’t listen to any music. Even if you're dancing in the studio, let the music come from your mind, feel how your limbs want to move this way and that, be present, be bold, be in control and embrace every moment.
exercise meditation mindfulness motivation presence self care self love success

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